Sunday, February 16, 2014

Adventures in crafting: Gold Leaf Papier Mache Bowl

Recently I came across a bowl that I liked on Etsy. This bowl:

The idea of the kind of rough, rustic outside with the bling on the inside really appealed to me. Although the bowl is only $15 (pretty reasonable considering) and I could have just bought it, it occurred to me that I actually had most of the stuff to make one like it. Yay! I was stoked!

I had some ready-made Claycrete papier mache mix that I hadn't done much with to use for the body of my bowl. It looks like this:

Honestly, I'm not crazy about the stuff. That doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with it - just an opinion and, for all I know, I might be doing something wrong when I use it. Okay. I'll just say it - I probably am doing something wrong. Anyway, my goal was to spend as little money as possible in the process of making it and this is what I had so this is what I used. 

At this point, I think I should confess that I didn't read the description on the Etsy bowl so I didn't realize it was a relatively small bowl. Mine wasn't going to be small. Mine was going to be regular bowl-sized bowl. The only bowl we had that I thought would make the size I wanted was a Pyrex mixing/storage bowl with fluted sides.

But that was okay. I figured some fluting on the inside of my bowl would just give it even more glamor and style. Off we go...

A prerequisite for papier mache is to always put something on your form that will make the end product release easily (so I'm told by clever crafty people on the internet) and usually that means patroleum jelly. We had some really very old patroleum jelly that we probably should have thrown out a long time ago but didn't and I thought, "Yeah, it's old, but what difference could it make?", so I coated the outside of my glass mixing bowl with it and proceeded to smush my lovely, goopy papier mache all over it. 

When it was dry after a few agonizing days of waiting, I tried to pull it off. No dice. It wouldn't budge. "Maybe I just need to loosen the rim to get it started", I thought. With a paint spatula I worked all the way around the rim. Still not coming. Hmmmm. So I worked a little further down. Nope. After a long process of stabbing at it, pulling at it and cursing I realized it was just not going to come off in one piece. It was basically glued to the glass bowl and it ended up in lots of small shredded bits. Sigh.

Undaunted (well, maybe a little daunted) I decided to try it again. The great thing about papier mache is that, if you mess it up, you can just wet it and use it again. That's what I did. This time I used a cooking spray to cover my form. A lot of cooking spray. A whole lot of cooking spray. When it dried (again) and I tried to remove it (again) it was still a little stubborn and still suffered a couple of tears (that I patched with more of the mix) but it was a whole bowl - more or less. Hooray!

I wanted the color of the outside of the bowl to be a little more off-white and I just happened to have some off-white spray paint so I painted it along with my hands and a large area of my back porch. 

 Oh well. On to the leafing! 

I had almost an entire book of gold leaf that had been laying around, literally, for years that was just begging me to do something with it. All I needed was the adhesive to put it on with. I haven't had much experience with metal leafing. I'd done a small project years ago and it turned out quite nicely if I do say so myself. When I did that, I would have sworn I used Tacky glue. Makes sense, right? You need a tacky surface to stick gold leaf to so you use Tacky glue, right? So I went to Walmart, fought my way through the last-minute Valentine's Day shoppers to get the craft department and picked myself up some Tacky glue. 

Enthusiastically, I rushed home and applied a coat to the inside of my second-attempt bowl. It turns out that Tacky glue isn't tacky. Why isn't Tacky glue tacky?? One of those great unanswered questions of the universe, I suppose. Now what? There was no way I was going to wait another day to get the proper adhesive and I was sure someone on the interwebs would have a clever solution. And they did. Elmers glue. Good old Elmers. The only hitch is that it can't be too wet and you can't let it dry completely. It had to be somewhere in the middle - kind of the Goldilocks of glue dryness. It didn't work great and, because of the rather pitted texture of my bowl there were lots of little white craters where the leafing didn't take. But aha! hateful bowl! You won't defeat me! I just happen to have a gold leafing pen! So with my mighty pen, I filled all the little white spaces. But it wasn't quite as shiny a gold as the leaf making it two slightly different shades that I blended semi-successfully. I added a coat of leafing seal (which I had bought before thinking it was adhesive) and I was done. Finally. 

And here's the final product:

Okay. Mine isn't as nice as the original Etsy bowl but it's not bad and it's bigger AND all I spent money on was the ill-chosen Tacky glue and the leaf sealant so I pronounce it a success! Now, where to put it...